Summary: The nation of Israel was depicted as a vine planted by Jehovah (Isaiah 5:1–7). But the nation proved unfaithful and unfruitful, so the Lord Jesus now presented Himself as the true vine.
(23-2) Last Speech to the Apostles and Intercessory Prayer
Date: Thursday of Christ’s last week
Chapter 15 is a continuation of Jesus’ last words to His disciples. It began in Chapter 13 with the disciples being rebuked for their lack of humility. Then He told them that He would soon leave them, and that one of their number would betray Him. To offset the depression produced by this startling revelation, Christ brought a message of hope and encouragement in Chapter 14. Chapter 15 is more teaching meant to prepare them for His death as they are on their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.
This 15th Chapter is a part of the Upper Room discourse, although our Lord did not speak it in the Upper Room. At least the assumption is that He did not, because the last statement in Chapter 14 is, “Arise, let us go hence.” Somewhere between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane our Lord spoke the words found in chapters 15 and 16, then prayed the prayer, recorded in chapter 17 as he entered the garden. Another suggestion has been made by several English expositors--and it is the one I accept--that that night He went by the temple, following the Law as He so meticulously did. The gates would have been open during the Passover nights.
There are three divisions that can be made to Chapter 15 of John that relate to the Lord Jesus Christ—His life, His Love, and His name.
His life (1–8). A branch is good for only one thing—bearing fruit. It may be weak in itself, but it has a living relationship with the vine and can be productive. To abide in Christ means to be in communion with Him so that our lives please Him. We know that we are abiding when the Father prunes us, cutting away the good so that we can produce the best. We glorify God with fruit, more fruit, and much fruit.
His love (9–17). Abiding depends on obeying, and obeying depends on loving. Love and joy go together and make it easy for us to obey His will. We should love Him, love His will, and love one another. Note the “fruit of the Spirit”: love (v. 10), joy (v. 11), and peace (14:27; Gal. 5:22).
His name (18–27). We enjoy the love of Christ and of the brethren, but we also must endure the hatred of the world for His name’s sake. The more we are like Christ, the more the world system will oppose us. Depend on the Spirit’s power and you will be a fruitful, faithful Christian (vv. 26–27).
Part 1: His life (1–8).
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was depicted as a vine planted by Jehovah (Isaiah 5:1–7). But the nation proved unfaithful and unfruitful, so the Lord Jesus now presented Himself as the true vine, the perfect fulfillment of all the other types and shadows. God the Father is the husbandman or the One who owns the vineyard and who takes care of it.
These disciples had Jewish concepts and their thought patterns had been governed by the Old Testament. He is telling them now that the nation Israel is not the genuine vine. Their identification with the Jewish nation and the Jewish religion is not the essential thing. “I am the genuine vine.” The important thing now is for the disciples to be related to Jesus Christ. That was revolutionary!
I am the true vine. This is one of the seven “I am” statements showing the deity of Christ, and they are all found in John’s Gospel. The other six are:
1) “I am the bread of life” (6:35, 48)
2) “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5)
3) “I am the door” (10:7, 9)
4) “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14)
5) “I am the resurrection, and the life” (11:25)
6) “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6)
"True," as it is used here, means “genuine,” all that a vine should be in a spiritual sense.
"Husbandman" appears 26 times in the King James Bible. It stands for a tiller of the soil, a vinedresser, a land-worker (farmer). Here Christ speaks of the Father as the “Husbandman,” Himself as the Vine, His disciples as the branches (v. 2), and the object is to bear much fruit. The believer’s life in Christ should produce the fruit of the Spirit, i.e., character and behavior in conformity to Christ.
God the Father is the One who “prunes” the branches so that they will produce more fruit. Many Christians pray that God will make them more fruitful, but they do not enjoy the pruning process that follows.